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3.75  ·  Rating details ·  5,936 ratings  ·  599 reviews
Bonsai é a história de um amor, o de Julio e Emilia, e é a história do fim deste amor. É também uma história sobre a consciência do fim. E não apenas para Emilia e Julio, “jovens tristes que leem romances juntos, que acordam com livros perdidos entre as cobertas”, mas para nós, leitores, que na primeira linha desta história falsamente simples recebemos a notícia: “No final ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published May 2012 by Cosac Naify (first published February 1st 2006)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,936 ratings  ·  599 reviews

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Sep 24, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those that relish indifference
Recommended to Jaidee by: random pick
2.5 "perplexed, indifferent, what-is-the-fuss-all-about ?!" stars !!

I am at a loss as how this book won Chile’s Literary Critics’ Award for Best Novel. Was it a very bad year? Were there no other novels published? Were the critics all first year double majors in post-modern literature and philosophy?

I don't get it!!

Don't get me wrong...this is not a poor book but I found nothing that interesting, or moving, or interesting, or profound, or interesting, or humorous, or interesting, or meaningful
Dec 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: literary foreplay
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Mike Puma
What's the purpose of being with someone if they don't change your life?

There are some books that can be consumed in a singular hour, yet remain within you to be digested by the intellect for days or weeks. Alejandro Zambra’s Bonsai is such a book. The precise simplicity of the novel makes it a difficult book to talk as the novella feels as fragile as an intricately colored moth’s wing—admire its beauty but don’t touch it lest it turn to dust. There is a feeling of weightlessness to the prose
May 16, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short, chile
Bonsai is the first piece of literature that I read in Spanish. It was the right choice for me from the language point of view. The narrative was simple and the vocabulary did not raise many difficulties. I definitely recommend it if you are an intermediate Spanish learner and want to learn by reading.

However, this novella did not stir any feelings in me. It was like I was reading a textbook. I though it might be that I was reading in Spanish but I do not think so.

Alejandro Zambra is young Chi
Mike Puma
Feb 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: you know who you are
Recommended to Mike by: systems in collusion

And better still after the third reading. If anyone is interested in reading this one and needs a copy of Macedonio Fernandez's Tantalia, feel free to give me a shout and I'll email you the 5-page story pronto.


Even better after the second reading.

The world is of tantalic inspiration.
So begins Macedonio Fernandez’s fantastic story Tantalia. Zambra makes reference to it. I encourage readers to get a copy and read it—bizarre and an incredible complement to this novella
Dec 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“What's the purpose of being with someone if they don't change your life”
Alejandro Zambra, Bonsaï


Alejandro Zambra’s, Bonsai, is as delicate as the miniature tree it’s named after. It is a stunning accomplishment. Zambra accomplishes in 86 pages what other writers take hundreds of pages to accomplish. Just as the silence between notes in a musical composition can define a work, so too do the silences in Bonsai define this work.

Bonsai is the story of Julio and Emilia, a young Chilean couple who
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those you are not afraid to meet their reflections
What does a resonating journal do? Arrest us in the powerful aura of words? Dispatch us to the comforting cocoon of our memories? Render a blanket of dignity to our failures? Exhort our fledgling dreams to a palpable fruition? Cast a succor net on our isolated struggles? Attest our timidity as a prelude to stronger days?

For me, it's essentially about reading about a distant 'me', the identity of this 'me' to be an inhabitant of past corridors or a tenant of future roads being inconsequential. As
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018

In the end she dies and he remains alone, although in truth he was alone some years before her death, Emilia's death. Let's say that she is called or was called Emilia and that he is called, was called, and continues to be called Julio. Julio and Emilia. In the end Emilia dies and Julio does not die. The rest is literature:

I only wanted a local short novel to read between transfers on my recent trip to Chile, and I ended up with this precious gem of a poem in prose, heavy with the memories of
May 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chile

Imagine a book whose first sentence is a huge spoiler: it summarizes the plot and tells you what will happen at the end.

Imagine a book which is a moving homage to literature and its ironic mockery at the same time.

Imagine a book in which its author invites you to participate in an intellectual game and winks at you in conspiracy from time to time.

Imagine a book filled to the brim with literary allusions.

Eyvind Earle, Bonsai, 1987.

Imagine a book which will enrich your To Be Read list.

Lynne King
Jul 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A bonsai has to be nurtured and truly loved or else it will die; likewise, unless one does the same thing with human love, that will also die.

This is a philosophical, thought provoking novella (so I have a tautology here but I like it even though it’s extraneous as it adds necessary substance to the wording) and I was charmed and delighted by it all.

This is not really a novella but a short story and it can be read in little more than an hour. Nevertheless, in spite of its brevity, it runs the ga
Anya (~on a semi-hiatus~)
"She and he, Macedonio’s characters, had and lost a little plant of love. Emilia and Julio—who are not exactly characters, though maybe it’s convenient to think of them as characters—have been reading before shagging for months, it is very pleasant, they think, and sometimes they think it at the same time: it is very pleasant, it is beautiful to read and talk about the reading just before tangling legs. It’s like doing exercise.

It isn’t always easy to find, in the texts, some impetus, however sm
this is mighty short but very nice. there are some really prettily-written moments within. not life-changing, but a good half hour read.
Dec 21, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: translation, fiction
for a slim novella, bonsai sure has attracted considerable attention. penned by a thirty-something chilean poet, the brief work was awarded the 2006 chilean critics award for best novel of the year. despite its wide accolades, it is also not without its share of ardent detractors. unsurprisingly, one would be hard pressed to find a single review that does not in some way compare or contrast zambra to his late countryman roberto bolaño. other than a motherland, however, there seems to be no conne ...more
Elena Sala
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: latin-america
BONSAI (2006), Alejandro Zambra's debut novel, is a deceptively simple story of a love affair. A brief novella, in itself, a literary bonsai: the story of Julio and Emilia's love for each other through several years of their lives, cut down to miniature form by means of thoughtful care, meticulous pruning and constant weeding, until the story gets the compact and artistic form which the author has envisioned.

Julio and Emilia have a soft spot for deceit in all its forms. They meet when they are u
Nov 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More of a short story than a novella, but who would spend $13 on a short story? I probably would.

In any event, the story's first paragraph is enough to pull even the most reluctant reader in. How's this for a promise?

"In the end she dies and he remains alone, although in truth he was alone some years before her death, Emilia's death. Let's say that she is called or was called Emilia and that he is called, was called, and continues to be called Julio. Julio and Emilia. In the end Emilia dies and
Jan 18, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As with Multiple Choice, the only other Zambra work I've read, I liked it well enough, just was left kind of wondering what all the fuss is about (since this has won major awards). It is sparse and can easily be read in about an hour, but didn't leave a huge impression on me - but I am curious it was turned into a film, since there doesn't really seem to be much of a plot to warrant such. ...more
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sookie by: Seemita

A book that reads like a quote on life.

A book that starts with a seed and grows into miniature version of a giant tree - an apt metaphor for the content Zambra put in this tiny novella that many authors take volumes to express. "Bonsai" is a fitting title for the story that Zambra narrates and the elegant beauty that is the book itself.

We follow Julio and Emilia - the two people who in the span of less than hundred pages became people I was more than acquainted with. Zambra pulls you into the
Wiebke (1book1review)
OMG I loved this book. It was a total cover buy and I read the German translation. I really couldn't put it down!

The way the author talks about and describes the characters is so great, not to serious but loving and the same time. The story about love and loss and the connection between sex and literature is heartbreaking and true.

I can only recommend this to anyone.
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
¡Genio! Absolutely brilliant.

This short novela (94 pages) is such a treat to read. The word play, the literary connections, and the "lightness of being" aspect brings out a sad tale of two lovers. Their failed but steamy relationship and the tragic connections with life and their friends makes this book easy and yet disturbing read.

The symbolism to the bonsai is a wonderful reflection of the lovers. "It has two elements: the living tree and the recipient. The two elements have to be in harmony
This was pretty flimsy to lay any claim on being a novel. I vastly preferred Ways of Going Home which had a little more heft to it and more developed meta-fictional themes. But really not bad for a book that you can read before breakfast. From reading Zambra it would seem that this sort of short 40 page novel is a common occurrence in Chilean literature but his are the first I have encountered and for now at least get the benefit of the doubt in my mind for their unique form.
Tanuj Solanki
An anti-story. Elements of the characters' lives are almost maliciously withheld, and what remains is the suggestion of a story. It also seems to me - after having read 'Ways of Going Home' too - that Zambra has only one story to tell, that of young love, and knowing this limitation, his work is in essence an exercise in never really telling that story.
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-chile
This novella is very difficult to not read in one sitting (which is how I read it) but perhaps is best savored and read slowly.
Like other works by Zambra, this short story about love, forgetting, and distance is beautiful and like a fairy tale. It is the story of Julio and Emilia whose story:

"Will end some years later with Emilia's death; Julio who does not die, who will not die, who has not died, continues but decides not to go on. The same for Emilia: for now she decides not to go on, but sh
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know where to start with this one. The fact that it's called Bonsai, since the novella is a compressed form of the novel. How the author equates taking care of a bonsai with writing. The characters and how they became my favorite literary couple right away. The literary name-dropping. That I read it in less than an hour. That it will stay with me forever.
 Sophia B
4.5 Delicate, simple and nearly perfect. A great debut. Love the structure and the prose. Beautiful story that resonates with me. Zambra never lets you down. Do read it!
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really bare bones love story which, really, you should just read in one go. I'm just going to steal part of another review here, since it so perfectly sums it up for me:

"It is the story of two young lovers, lovers of one another and literature, and what happens to them once they part. It is as simple as that, yet complex in its mechanics and implications. Like the bonsai grown by Julio, the story exists and flourishes within the confines of its literary container, with Zambra’s pristine prose
A book about a book, ultimately unconvincing.

When Cervantes wrote Don Quijote, one of his aims was to attack a certain kind of literature of his day. He plotted the story with a character that reads too much, becomes crazy, and subsequently imagines he is part of one of these books himself. Don Quijote is in a sense a book about books. Jumping several centuries ahead, modern Latin American writers are obsessed with the thematic of writers within their novels, with variable outcomes. The big succ
Oct 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Πανέμορφο. Διάβασα την αγγλική μετάφραση δυο φορές,υπαρχει κ στα ελληνικά απ´τις εκδόσεις Πατάκη. Ειναι μια μικρή ιστορια για τον έρωτα δυο φοιτητών κ για την αγάπη τους για την λογοτεχνία.

“This, then, is a light story that turns heavy. This is the story of two students who are enthusiasts of truth, of scattering sentences that seem true, of smoking eternal cigarettes, and of closing themselves into the intense complacency of those who think they are better, purer than others, than that immense
Wanda Brenni
Feb 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Serendipity, I love it. I'm in the middle of slowly reading Proust's Guermantes Way when by chance I watch a Chilean movie that circles round Proust in many ways but I couldn't fully understand it without subtitles. I watched it several times but just as with Proust, I would fall asleep even though fastinated. The own concept of the story intregued me so much that in the end, I just had to buy the book. I now understand the movie and I loved the book. Nothing more than a short story of 51 pages. ...more
Nov 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's a short book - and there are some parts of it that are fabulous. Like the way the relationship at the center of the story begins and ends. Long ago, I had someone tell me - if you can see the end, the end is already here. And never have I seen those thoughts mirrored more accurately than here in this slim novel.
I liked the way characters are kept at edge, deemed unimportant to the story. And I like how they still barge in, demanding a larger space, even in such few pages.
Towards the end, th
El Avestruz Liado
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the beginning of this book the author resumes the plot as: “In the end she dies and he remains alone. The rest is literature”. Indeed the plot is very thin but the literature is executed with precision and in an innovative form. To be honest, this is (approximately) an hour long lecture so it would be better for the prospective reader to skip the reviews and just go for the book, hence I will leave the review at that.
Sep 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was debating back and forth reading this in English or in Spanish. I read it in English, in the end. On a plane. In an hor or three. It was, in fact, a great plane read. I read a review of it in The Nation and knew it was for me, especially when the reviewer said something about Zambra being the sort of "anti-Bolaño" or something. It's not that I hate Bolaño. In fact, I have NEVER read ANY of his novels. It's just that everyone loves him so much that I can't bring myself to read him, sort of t ...more
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Alejandro Zambra is a Chilean writer. He is the author of Bonsai, The Private Lives of Trees, Ways of Going Home, My Documents and Multiple Choice. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Granta, Harper's, Zoetrope, and McSweeney’s, among other places.

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You’d think that with, well, everything this year has had in store for us, readers would flock to sweet stories with happy endings. But as...
176 likes · 64 comments
“What's the purpose of being with someone if they don't change your life? She said that, and Julio was present when she said it: that life only had purpose if you found someone who changed it, who destroyed your life.” 49 likes
“Qual o sentido de ficar com alguém se essa pessoa não muda a sua vida? Disse isso, e Julio, estava presente quando disse: que a vida só tinha sentido se a gente encontrasse alguém que mudasse, que destruísse sua vida.” 4 likes
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